COVID beds run out in St. Petersburg as Russian vaccine rollout increases

MOSCOW (Reuters) – St. Petersburg is running out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, city authorities said, as one of about half a dozen companies licensed to produce Russian Sputnik V vaccine began deliveries across the country. .

Biotechnology group Biocad said Wednesday it was delivering the shot as part of a national inoculation program. More than 200,000 people in Russia have already been vaccinated against the disease.

Russia is battling a second wave of the virus, and while authorities have so far relied on targeted curbs rather than imposing a second national blockade to contain it, the Kremlin warned last week that St. Petersburg was close to crossing a “red line” .

Oleg Ergashev, deputy governor of the city – Russia’s second largest country and birthplace of President Vladimir Putin – said only 4 percent of the beds allocated to COVID patients were free.

“We understand that additional capacity needs to be used,” he told local television on Tuesday.

The city of about 5 million people has recorded more than 185,000 infections and 6,529 deaths since the start of the pandemic, compared to more than 2,730,000 and 48,500 nationwide, respectively.

Authorities said 596 people have died from COVID-19 across the country in the past 24 hours.

Data from the state statistics service showed that Russia recorded nearly 140,000 deaths in excess of the five-year average between April and October, including over 50,000 in October.

Epidemiologists say excess mortality is the best way to measure the number of deaths from a disease epidemic because it is internationally comparable.

Data released this week found that Sputnik V, approved by Russian regulators in August after less than two months of human testing, is 91.4% effective.

Vaccine trials are underway in Belarus, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and India.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Tom Balmforth, Polina Nikolskaya and Gleb Stolyarov; Written by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Katya Golubkova and John Stonestreet